LINCOLN, Neb. (KMTV) - Gov. Pete Ricketts and Nebraska Department of Education Commissioner Matthew Blomstedt discussed plans to return students to school safely this fall on Friday.
Ricketts said "it's important to get kids back to school." He said going back to the classrooms is what's best for many kids. He says it's best for learning, it gets them more physically active, gives them nutritious meals and aids their mental health.
Ricketts urges parents to be patient to keep in mind that returning to school will be a "building by building" decision.
Blomstedt said the Nebraska Department of Education released a 25 page document for superintendents on how to return to schools. He said the document was crafted with help from education officials throughout the state.
Blomstedt said schools have a color coded system that indicates when schools open and what education should look like. For instance, green is all systems go and red would mean moving back to a remote learning model.
The @NDE_GOV has color coded guidance for schools to help with making decisions on the health and safety of students and staff. Full guidance will be posted on Launch Nebraska at https://t.co/9pxLB4LvmF. pic.twitter.com/SDCVOPok21— NDE NEWS (@NDE_News) July 17, 2020
Blomstedt says every school district in the state is on the path to reopen classrooms in the fall. Omaha Public Schools is opening up for about half the students at a time.
Ricketts says masks and social distancing are part of the solution.
“If they are able to have students stay six foot a part in a classroom and they’re all wearing masks, that is going to be a much easier environment to be able to say, when one child tests positive, if it’s not a close contact, everybody can come back to class the next day," says Ricketts.
When asked why reopen schools in the fall when they were shut down in the spring, Ricketts said there's more known about the coronavirus. He said kids don't get sick very much and says the state has more testing now than it did then.
Blomstedt said if a student tests positive, it’s likely the school will have to briefly shutdown. But the goal would be to get back very quickly. He added if all the kids are wearing masks and social distancing, it’s likely students can get back in the classroom quickly.
Ricketts was asked about an Omaha Public Schools board member who said no sports should happen this fall. Ricketts said schools need to find a way to live with the coronavirus. He said there's ways to do activities while social distancing and that sports are an important part of the school experience. He concedes sports may look differently than in the past.
Blomstedt said having kids in school is "absolutely critical" and says the state is doing everything they can to make sure schools can reopen this fall.
The press conference can be watched below.